Review By Val Tapia, BADS Contributing Writer
Photos By Fred Kuhlman
There’s one thing that fans of former Queensrÿche vocalist Geoff Tate can count on: he’s certain to play in Phoenix whenever he’s on tour. Personally, I think he loves it here in Arizona. But that’s between you and me.
Likewise, Tate can always count on his loyal audience of four decades to cheer him on. The 400-or-so people who came out to Celebrity Theatre on Wednesday night (Oct. 4) were more than happy to get an “encore performance” of the Big Rock Show Hits tour that initially came through the Valley in December 2022.
Mind you, this time fans got a revamped setlist which included several Queensrÿche “staples”, if you will, and even a few obscure songs— which is to Tate’s credit I should add. I respect the fact that he likes to dig in to his vast catalog and throw fans a curve ball every now and then when it comes to the set list. Kudos to him for that.
To that point, rest assured there was something for most, and the audience responded in kind.
Tate and his self-proclaimed “amazing international band” (consisting of guitarists James Brown and Dario Parente, bassist Jack Ross, and drummer Daniel Laverde) kicked off their 20-song, 110-minute set with one of Queensrÿche’s all-time classics, Empire.
I’ve said it before here on Beneath a Desert Sky, and I’ll happily say it again: Empire remains one of the greatest hard rock songs of Gen X— period. In short order, it never fails to raise peoples’ fists in the air.
Next up, Tate and the band went right into Desert Dance (from 2003’s Tribe). Given that this was played during the December show, I think that Open would’ve been a great addition to this set to represent that album. Maybe the next tour, perhaps?
Moving on, we get to 1994’s Promised Land, the album that Tate has cited as his favorite Queensrÿche album. The third song in the set, I Am I, kicks things up a notch with the mostly 50-something audience. Funny enough, there was a point in the show where Tate asked who the “oldest motherf**kers” were in the crowd.
It turned out, the oldest attendee was a woman 65+ years young… in the front row. As a reward, Tate asked someone to “bring her a drink”. The crowd went crazy, and it was clear the “guest of honor” was having the time of her life.
Going back to 1999, two songs are played from an album called Q2K— the first one being Sacred Ground. After deep cuts The Thin Line (from 1990’s Empire) and One Foot In Hell (from 2006’s Operation: Mindcrime II) they immediately delve into The Right Side Of My Mind, which was a pleasant surprise and welcome return to the set. I saw a few jaws drop on that one, truth be told. Some have called it an unheralded Queensrÿche classic.
Let’s not forget that sooner or later, it’s inevitable that a few songs from the landmark 1988 album Operation: Mindcrime will find their way into the set. In this case, we get the title track Operation: Mindcrime, Breaking The Silence, and I Don’t Believe In Love, respectively.
Of course, it would be disingenuous and dishonest of me if I didn’t mention the clunker of the night. The eleventh song, Wot We Do (from 2011’s Dedicated To Chaos, the final Queensrÿche album with Tate) is simply awful. I could see a WTF? look on many faces during that song.
Fairly or unfairly, Dedicated To Chaos is widely regarded to this day among fans and critics as Queensrÿche’s worst album of its career. As a result, it’s a largely forgotten one as well— and understandably so.
In this writer’s opinion, as far as latter-day Queensrÿche songs go (from Tate’s era), something like Middle Of Hell or A Dead Man’s Words (from 2009’s American Soldier) would’ve worked a lot better.
Back onstage, Tate tells the crowd that it’s time for “something really old” to plenty of cheers and goes into NM 156 (from 1984’s The Warning). One could say that it was a precursor of sorts to what would become Screaming In Digital from the following album Rage For Order in 1986.
Tate noted the irony, if you will, about those songs being played back-to-back, given all the talk of “artificial intelligence that I’m reading about these days”. Lyrically, both songs do address how technology was shaping the future— for better and worse I imagine.
Walk In the Shadows followed, and from there we get a trio from Queensrÿche’s biggest-selling album Empire to end the main set: Another Rainy Night, the much-overplayed Jet City Woman, and the biggest hit of their career, Silent Lucidity.
I should note that Silent Lucidity was dedicated to a friend of Tate’s who had recently passed away. At one point, Tate choked up during the first verse of the song, and immediately continued once he composed himself. It was a very moving moment for the entire audience.
The band returned for a three-song encore consisting of Pink Floyd’s 1975 classic Welcome To The Machine. A side note: for those who may not know, this was also the opening track on Queensrÿche’s 2007 covers album entitled Take Cover.
The last two songs were ones that most Queensrÿche fans never get tired of hearing. They’re also the songs that usually concluded the shows during The Warning tour of 1984-85: Take Hold Of The Flame, and of course, Queen Of The Reich. Hard to believe that the final song of the night is now 40 years old. Time flies indeed!
To conclude, I personally want to commend Tate and the band for doing a 20-song set. Unfortunately, there seems to be a trend with veteran artists that have sizable catalogs (i.e. six or more studio albums) who are perfectly content playing a paltry 13, 14 songs within a 75-80 minute set. For all intents and purposes, this is absolutely unacceptable—on every level imaginable!
In other words, bands and artists should feel obligated to perform a 20-song set or a two-hour show—minimum.
Nice to see that Tate seems to agree, given how hard he and the band work to give their fans the best show possible with hits and obscurities. I’m confident that the majority of fans appreciate this approach— even if it’s difficult to please everyone. Respect to them for that.
I’ll give Geoff Tate’s Big Rock Show Hits tour 3.5 out of five stars. Go see it Queensrÿche fans— I think you’ll enjoy it.
Photos by Fred Kuhlman 2023, All Rights Reserved